Thursday, December 28, 2006

Simplicity on complex things

There is a big wave of thoughts on the word "simplicity" as referred to the way product managers and designers think a new (or rethink an old) mobile phone, game platform, software, a tool... a widget. A thing.

What's the simplest word to say "a thing that can be used"?
In Italian, I would say congegno or coso. Everybody would understand me, given he/she knows Italian.
I bet you don't understand the word. Because you lack the knowledge to interpret the verbal signal, which your brain would have linked to a conceptual model, something "you know".

Simplicity is a matter of "I already know that, it's simple!".
When our brain encounters a new thing, it tries to map it to something known. That is to say, it starts a matching procedure, just like the one that makes me look like certain celebrities :)
After matching a model, Mr Brain keeps going refining the identification process by finding differences and specifying further features. (You are probably thinking "This is generally valid, but you can find a lot of examples which do not work this way." Exactly what I meant :) )

Therefore, if you want simplicity look for already seen things. Look for something natural. Even if there is a really innovative technology that you cannot live without.
If you want innovation please do not try to justify its complexity as a necessary by-product of innovation.

In my experience, I have to say that the real challenge of technological innovation is to make the technology unseen. We are overwhelmed by acronyms -I have the special gift of inventing a new one each day :)- and useless bits of false knowledge that we call "technical jargon".

That's why, in my personal (and professional) opinion, one way to make VoIP live long is to kill VoIP as we've seen it so far. The technology is not always "under the hood", and fighting with proxy configuration and NAT traversal issues is not acceptable for the average user(note).
Therefore, solutions that sell the thing of calling via Internet "as is" are going to die.
On the other hand, solutions that provide you with a "virtual personal assistant", a "calling privacy shield", a "doorbell for your site" (like our Sitofono) are going to be more successful just because they can be understood and matched with something known. Secondly, they will be valued for what they are, but this is a second step. You cannot value what you don't understand, do you?

I've some thoughts about "features" and "simplicity" that I want to discuss with you, but I prefer to write them on a separate post, and with some time to digest this long one. :)

Note: as Steve Krug says in "Don't Make Me Think", his bestseller book on web usability, "the actual average user is kept in a hermetically sealed vault at the International Bureau of Standards in Geneva" :))

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bug in Firefox VoIP

It seems like Abbeyphone VOW is doing something bad on web pages...

Updated: If you use Movable Type in Firefox, BEWARE of Abbeyphone! by ZDNet's Russell Shaw -- There's this voice over Web platform called Abbeyphone that, in the wrong set of circumstances, has potential to create havoc for some bloggers who use Movable Type via Firefox. I know this because I've had problems on a couple of blog sites. Problems like, right-hand margins getting blown out, and distorting both the post and [...]

Actually, our Firefox VoIP Extension is putting some garbage in nearly all the web pages which contain user numbers as user input: therefore, any application that contains a <textarea> tag may be affected by this bug.
Albeit the application is in beta version, this is the kind of bug that needs attention...

As Luca suggested, the current workaround is to untick "Highlight numbers" in your Abbeyphone for Firefox extension.
But the problem will be fixed in the next version, which is planned in the second half of January.

Stay tuned and:
Thanks for feedback, Russell!

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Find the celebrities that look like you

Some days ago I've received an e-mail from a dear friend, in which there was a photo collage of her, in the middle, and a bunch of celebrities whirling around her photo.
Each photo presents the celebrity name and a "look-alike percentage".
You can see a live example in the sidebar of this blog, just scroll down a bit.

I found it really funny and entertaining, and I started feeding the matching algorithm with a lot of pictures of myself (tanned, recovering from illness, with glasses, a slim period, a fat period, drunk, really drunk...)!
It is not obvious, but each photo carries certain features that make a different match set, therefore you are not always Mel Gibson's secret brother :).

Anyway, it is interesting to note that several celebrity matches are always there, in the top ten, and that tells me that a GOOD face recognition system MUST work with a photo set of the candidates, not only a picture. (I've been working on classifying algorithms for a while, and I personally experimented the importance of considering the variances along with the "average" model, i.e. don't blindly trust the first match result)

Another interesting thing that smells "viral marketing" is the fact that this "nice free face recognition tool" carries a promotional message, which says: is building a social network of families, and is competent on face recognition products.

Instead of building yet-another-youtube-promo-video, they built an application. A nice one, that users will remember to use and spread. As a consequence of that, I imagine they are seeing a great increase in their subscription daily rate...

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Forum Nokia on VoIP

Nokia is always a step ahead. As Luca already mentioned, Nokia has got a VoIP forum section.
VoIP is just a basic application that enhances the utility of their products, and which constitutes a starting point for a new breed of technologies. It is not just VoIP, which is a small tile in a more complex puzzle of product extension and derivations.

Given the latest acquisitions by Nokia (IntelliSync, Gate5, Loudeye),
I think they are preparing the world for a real mobile experience: nonetheless, nokia mobile products (hey, they are not phones, not anymore!!!) are earning a seamless stream of success and awards (and $$$bucks$$$), by giving the possibility of grabbing users experience and share it with their friends.

The WWW is going to be the platform on which mobile devices (NOKIA mobile devices) connect and live on.

Let me remind you an enlightening post by Ken Camp, "How big is the internet", his oversimplified-and-genial answer is: "The whole damn Internet fits in my shirt pocket. It’s that big".

Nokia is really connecting people.

Technorati Tags: ,
, , ,

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wengo looks for bloggers

Openwengo changes its name and starts a new project, called Wengovisio.
Wengovisio is targeted on bloggers that want to put a web-enabled device on their blog pages. Wengovisio puts your visitors in contact with your openwengo client, for free.

The Wengo philosophy is not new, for us. That's what we call VOW - Voice Over Web, a technology (and vision) which Abbeynet has built during the last year. I see a lot of points in common between Wengovisio and VOW.

VOW is the technology we used to build a Sitòfono, a targeted VOW application for the market segment represented by all the businesses with a website that struggle to capture customers.
Wengovisio is now targeted only on bloggers, but Sitòfono covers perfectly this market segment as well (althoug it doesn't feature video call).

I think that the one-to-one communication battle is starting, these days.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Hictu! Your ever-updated addressbook

Do you have an addressbook? Do you store it somewhere? What kind of data do you store on it?

Telephony addresses.
Snail mail addresses.
Name/Surname (it's a form of mnemonic addressing).

Do you like it to be updated regularly? That is to say, your friend Bob has changed his mobile phone number, so you have to change it.

Do you want it to be updated instantly? With the most useful and immediate means of communicating with your contact, when you live more than one third of your life online?

Well, your answer is Hictu!
My colleague Giacomo explains the main features and the scope of this stunningly innovative project.

What I miss:

  • A "widget" that allows a simple "add to my Hictu!" by clicking on a link

  • Some note-taking on my contacts, and some more space for contacts to describe themselves.

  • Tagging feature: everything was "stored in a folder/directory" but since the advent of tagging, everything is just put in the heap with a tag. A google-like search engine will do the rest, like my favourite bookmarking site

Technorati Tags: ,
, , , ,

Monday, December 04, 2006

posting from (nearly) any mobile to blogger

Luca raised an important point in his blog: how to publish from any mobile phone to blogger? Well, any phone that has at least a gprs connection and a mail client... Us citizens can use the go.blogger interface, while non-us can use the mail-to-blog feature. You just need to provide a secret username in the mail section of blogger control panel, and check the publish box. Then, any email sent to this address will be instantly published. Easy, isn't it?